PBA Draft

Potential No. 1 pick Justine Baltazar joins PBA Draft

Delfin Dioquino

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Potential No. 1 pick Justine Baltazar joins PBA Draft

BIG MAN. Justine Baltazar in action for the Pampanga Giant Lanterns in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League.

Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League Facebook page

Former La Salle star and reigning MPBL MVP Justine Baltazar gives the PBA another shot after a change of heart last year that saw him withdraw from the draft

MANILA, Philippines – The upcoming PBA Draft set on July 14 just got arguably its biggest draw as Justine Baltazar headlines the pool of rookie hopefuls.

According to a story on the PBA website, the 6-foot-9 Baltazar, who is touted as the potential No. 1 pick owing to his size and versatile skill set, submitted his application on Wednesday, July 3.

The former La Salle big man, a three-time UAAP Mythical Team member, gives the PBA another shot after a change of heart last year that saw him withdraw from the draft, instead taking his talents to the Japan B. League.

Baltazar signed with the Hiroshima Dragonflies in 2022, but his B. League stint proved short-lived as he parted ways with the club in the middle of the season.

After a botched attempt to sign with the Seoul Samsung Thunders, which also resulted in a two-year ban from the Korean Basketball League, he opted to play for his home team Pampanga in the Maharlika Pilipinas Basketball League (MPBL).

Baltazar led the Giant Lanterns to the MPBL crown last season and won the MVP and Finals MVP honors.

Maintaining his dominant form, the former Gilas Pilipinas standout averages 14.2 points, 14.5 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1.1 steals in the current MPBL season.

Baltazar is expected to be selected by the Converge FiberXers, who own the top pick after a dismal season that saw them compile a 3-19 record and finish last in the two conferences.

Converge team owner Dennis Anthony Uy hails from Pampanga, while Pampanga Governor Dennis “Delta” Pineda, who coaches the Giant Lanterns, is closely tied with the FiberXers.

Baltazar joins the growing draft pool that includes other top prospects CJ Cansino, Jerom Lastimosa, Dave Ildefonso, Caelan Tiongson, Evan Nelle, and Jonnel Policarpio.

Policarpio, also a La Salle product like Baltazar, bid the Green Archers goodbye on Wednesday to pursue his PBA aspirations.

The deadline for application is on Thursday, July 4.

After Converge, Blackwater will pick second followed by Terrafirma at No. 3, Phoenix at No. 4, NorthPort at No. 5, NLEX at No. 6, Rain or Shine at No. 7 and 8, Magnolia at No. 9, and Barangay Ginebra at No. 10.

Meralco and San Miguel, which each won a championship last season, will select at No. 11 and 12, respectively. – Rappler.com

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.